Property Crime Going Down

Chip Shields

Tony Green wrote a story in this morning's Oregonian -- "Measure could start new round of prisons." The subject is Kevin Mannix's next ballot measure that is likely to be on the November 2008 ballot. In the story I note that property crime is going down significantly in all of Oregon's major cities. Below is an analysis of the most recent FBI data so you can see and decide for yourself.

The preliminary 2006 FBI numbers are here.

As you can see, property crimes in Eugene were down from 9902 in 2005 to 8113 in 2006. In Portland, it's down from 37,645 to 31,996. In Salem, it's down from 8986 to 8260.

Some comments in an e-mail I received from a local criminal-justice expert are below. I can't reach him today to get his okay to publish his name. Feel free to analyze the data and publish your comments if you come to a different conclusion:

On the whole, the data shows that property crime (nationally in 2006) was down 2.9%. Statewide data for Oregon is not yet available, so we cannot comment on the state-wide rate, but the report does include data from Portland, Eugene and Salem. Interestingly, all three cities show a statistically significant decrease in property crime – contrary to conventional wisdom and popular anecdote. Eugene showed a huge decrease in property offenses. Property crime is down around the country and way down in Oregon’s three largest cities (14.4%). This decrease in 2006 continues a downward trend of a 5.1% decrease in property crime from 2004 to 2005. Click here for the 2005 FBI report that shows that 5.1% decrease in 2005.

What do you think?

Comments

  • DD877 (unverified)
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    HMMM Wonder If ICE Raids and Such Just Made The Petty Criminals along with the Meth Heads Move Jurisdictions It certainly wasn't Terrible Tom and Rosie's Raiders.

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    Actually, I wouldn't go so far as to say in "all of Oregon's major cities."

    Please remember that Gresham is the state's 4th largest city and is approaching 100,000 residents. The summer 2006 estimate by the U.S. Census was 97,745.

    When that report came out from the FBI, there was a story in The Gresham Outlook talking about how while crime is down in Portland (40 year lows in some cases), crime has increased in Gresham.

    Since that chart doesn't list Gresham, I can't give the numbers for sure. I can't wait for the numbers for the state and other cities to become available. It would be interesting to see if cities real close to Eugene and Salem are having the same problem we are - crime isn't going down, it's just being pushed out of one town and into another.

  • Rick Hickey (unverified)
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    I am also glad that reported property crimes are down.

    Thanks to Kevin Mannix we will have a choice to stiffen penalties for law breakers. Increased penalities could make the Meth heads think twice or at least go somehwere else to be bad.

    I like having a choice, Tyranny does not want us to have a say.

    ICE raids may not help as Illegals can get all they need from Democrat social service programs.

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    Chip,

    Thanks for introducing some actual facts to a conversation that has largely been driven by fear. Mannix's ballot measure would be a disaster for Oregon, and as it doesn't provide any additional revenue would further starve our underfunded educational system, human services and other vital needs.

    Not too mention that its not the best way to deal with our public safety problems, which would be much better served with additional investments in alcohol and drug treatment and mental health care.

  • peter (unverified)
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    these type of measures are sold (and bought by many--even by the oregonian reporter) as "anti-crime", the reason they are successful is really about something else. for one, prison building is a profitable industry, but more importanty, i think: rural jobs. if crime is going down as the fbi reports say, this measure makes even more sense--we need to create more criminals, and thus prisoners to keep our jails full.

    oregon is a progressive state, i hope we can find a better way to create more jobs in areas with low employment than building more prisons. the rps was a good start, but only a start.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    What do you suppose Mannix is gearing up to run for? Typical republican campaign tactic of fear, fear, and more fear. This sure isn't about actual crime.

  • MCT (unverified)
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    I heard a clip on the news recently that Portland cops will undergo 40 hrs of mandatory training on how to handle the mentally ill citizens who cross their paths. AND that the city is in desparate need of a facility to temporarily house and process (and I assume medicate) these "clients". They need millions of dollars for this holding tank.

    Wouldn't it make more sense to retrofit an unused but brand new jail for this purpose?

    My partner has an adult daughter who was diagnosed with paranoid schitzophenia as a teenager. There is no cure and hers is a sad and hopeless case. We feel helpless, and since she is an adult we have no say in her situation. Meds are necessary but only go so far to bring her only remotely near normal function as a human being, and she will not stay on them if not locked up. She disappears and we find her when she gets arrested for some crazyness she's perpetrated....the cops all know her and know she's mentally ill. She was housed at Damasch State Hospital until it closed in 1995, and she was virtually turned out onto the street where she has accrued a long record of arrests. Crimes of the crazy. People like her need state assistance for permenant housing and care, not more prison space. And there are a LOT of unfortunates like her in our criminal justice system.

    I just think tax dollars would be better spent on helping people like her, not punishing them. NOT saying there aren't hardened habitual sociopath criminals out there.... but lets screen the mentally ill and get them out of the criminal justice system and then see how many jail cells we actually need.

  • Jack (unverified)
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    These are annual variations. Not useful (except for cynical political reasons) when presented in isolation. You need to put these data in a decadal-scale context.

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    To MCT: Amen Brother, from your lips to God's (and the legislature's) ears. Mr Hickey, I was gonna call you a boob but then I decided to let it go. Feels good to rise above the fray.

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    Actually, the numbers show that crime has been dropping for some time now in cities like Portland.

    It's interesting to see, though, that crime isn't going away -- it's just being pushed into other areas.

    It would be something to compare drops in Portland's numbers to increases in the surrounding cities.

  • Marty Wilde (unverified)
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    The great irony here is that it's well-nigh impossible to get prison time for simple meth possession - it's a level 1 on the sentencing guidelines - presumptive probation, no matter how many prior convictions. However, ID theft, which, in my 13 years in law enforcement, has had a 100% correlation with meth abuse, can get you some pretty substantial time for repeat offenses.

    Don't fool yourselves - people use meth for the same reason people use all other drugs - they choose to. The system is basically geared to provide opportunities for rehab and to warehouse people who aren't ready to choose rehab (and who annoy us by committing property crimes). Eventually, most people seem to take one of the opportunities for rehab or do most of their life in prison.

    The real problem is that we have a very expensive view of what prison is. Most people don't need high fences and concrete blocks. If we're going to warehouse non-violent property offenders, then we should at least do it economically. However, if there's one thing that liberals and conservatives all agree on, it's that they don't want a minimum security prison or halfway house in THEIR neighborhood.

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    Related to Jenny Simonis' comments -- it is my strong impression that the most relevant political units for incarceration are counties, not municipalities, and it is a regular feature of news over the last couple of years that local counties are forced to release people prior to completion of sentences due to lack of prison beds. Meanwhile there is an unused prison in Multnomah County because funding for running and maintaining it wasn't built into the decision to build it.

    Do the crime statistics come broken out by county at some point?

    Would Mannix' prisons be state prisons? Are state prisons needed? If the funding isn't provided for, could they just end up sitting empty? Is this Mannix providing cover from criticisms of Measure 11?

    Marty, do you think there are spaces in rehab programs for everyone who wants one, in Oregon? In all parts of Oregon? I know that nationally there is a huge deficit of places in rehab compared to people who want a place.

  • Laura C (unverified)
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    Crime stats are tricky critters. In regards to property crimes, what is not accounted is the fact that one person or one particular small group of people can committ literally hundreds of property crimes. This does not hold so true when speaking about violent crimes which trend to be committed as singular acts. In other words, it's rare for one person or a small group of persons acting in unison to committ hundreds of violent crimes. It's also rare for an identity thief to steal just one persons identity, or a burglar to committ just one burglary. Most often driven by substance addiciton and the the cost of the illegal drugs, these people are forced to support a daily addiciton that costs hundred of dollars per day. A cost which most people with stable employment simply can not sustain. Their financial lives are ruined and have only crime to turn to as a means for sustaining the addiction. When a person is arrested and charged with burglary, identity theft, or other property crime, we often do not hear or have knowledge of the number of counts they are charged with in connection to a prosecution. Nor do we have knowledge of how many cases were cleared by one arrest and subsequent conviction.

    Do we need more rigorusly enforced mandatory prison terms and do we need to build more prisons to house inmates? I'm not sure on that point. Will it solve the problem? The answer to that question is a resounding no. The answer will reamin no as long as we continue in the mind set that prison is the only solution to the problem. Rehab and supervision is also not the only answer, even if it is coupled with more prison beds.

    The 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act may should go down in history as a bigger mistake than Prohibition. Substance abuse and addiction has long been a part of civilization only rivaled by the "oldest profession" in seniority. What actually was the forbidden fruit in the garden of eden?

    Criminalization of substances has only led to an underground economy. An economy that has expotentially inflated with every new effort or law to further deter the sales, possession or usage of controlled substances. Profit is the motive of the drug trade. The trickle down effect being users paying more and more money for more potent and impure drugs. It has fueled the violence we have seen by "gangs" on street corners. It has been the primary cause of property crimes. It has also financed a substantial portion of modern terrorism we see today.

    I certainly do not have all the answers. But I do know that simply building more prisons and meteing out more time for convicted criminals is not the best and only option, it's only, at best, a part of the answer and then only a band aid applied to a major hemmorage.

    What could we have done if we had spent the 10 to 12 billion dollars we are currently spending each month in Iraq and had invested that money, resources, people and public conciousness into solving the crime problem, health care, social security, housing, and infrasturcture of our own country. How great would it have been to be talking about rebuilding New Orleans instead of talking about building more prisons?

    Besides all of the above, I seriously doubt I would ever vote for any ballot measure Mannix is involved with, much the same as I would most likely never vote for any ballot measure Bill Sizemore would put forth.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)
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    If this measure fails it will be because it includes increased drug crime sentencing. That is the only aspect that will give most voters any pause.

    The long-ignored issue of property crimes and ID theft is very compelling.

    The cost question is laughable coming from the pro-spending side of the aisle.

    How come the only time progressives really want the voters to examine the cost of government programs (e.g., k-12, hgher ed, social services, Oregon Health Plan, etc.) it involves criminal corrections?

  • raul (unverified)
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    PanchPDX said: The cost question is laughable coming from the pro-
    spending side of the aisle.

         How come the only time progressives really want the  
      voters to examine the cost of government programs 
      (e.g., k-12, hgher ed, social services, Oregon Health  
       Plan, etc.) it involves criminal corrections
    

    This was a rather amusing statement ! I suppose that you were unaware that Pres. Bush has borrowed more money than all other previous presidents combined? Maybe read a little, Lars doesn't always tell you the truth-

    As someone from the " other side of the aisle " I and those like me look to make sure that funds are allocated in a way that does the most good. You know, spending wisely.

    Knee jerk tells me that I want the tweakers busted that break into my car, damaging the windows, to get the change out of my ashtray. Throw away the key, I'm getting sick of them. Taking a breath I wonder: Will these prisons be private and for profit? ( see Wackenhut ) How will these prisons be funded- and who will lose funding? Will extra prisons solve the problem?

    People commit crimes thinking they will not be caught- and the most you can do with a prison is lock them up after the fact- and unfortunately my windows will still get broken.

    Lets take a look at drug rehabs, and finding ways to get these folks with issues off the streets and rehabilitated so that they become productive tax payers and citizens.

    See, we can spend money on facilities that are only used AFTER the crime has been committed, and that suck tax money away from us while warehousing people or we can spend money on the front end and try and prevent the crime altogether.

    Deep thinking, Pancho, but sometimes you have to look at preventing crimes, not just punishment after the fact.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)
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    I suppose that you were unaware that Pres. Bush has borrowed more money than all other previous presidents combined? Maybe read a little, Lars doesn't always tell you the truth-

    I am very aware of the debt created under the Bush Administration and none too happy about it.

    FWIW, I spend less time listening to Lars than perusing Blue Oregon - which is another way of saying "not too much of either."

    It's funny though, that progressives will simultaneously argue that "property crimes are down" and "it will cost too much to incarcerate all the people committing these property crimes."

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    PanchoPDX,

    If you read the thread, you will find that in fact a bunch of people on "this side" said that the stats of decline were misleading because they didn't take into account the growth of crime in communities not included. In other words, not ruling out the possibility that more prisons might be needed. There is an actual debate going on here.

    The description was that the initiative will build the prison but not provide for its operating costs and maintenance. The Portland metro area currently has an unused jail for precisely that reason.

    People who vote for this should know what it will cost to run. People who want more jails should be willing to pay more taxes for them.

    I am not saying "it will cost too much." I am saying if we need it, we need to pay for it, and that if we want services, we need to pay for them.

    You may want to argue that prisons should be a higher priority than schools, and that it is more important not to raise taxes than to do both schools and prisons adequately (assuming for the sake of argument that the prisons currently are inadequate). I say if we need this, we need the taxes to pay for it.

    My old age and my daughter's entire life are going to be much more difficult because of the borrow-and-spend hypocrisy of this generation of so-called conservatives. You may not be one of them. How about trying to convince your relative co-thinkers to give up their knee-jerk anti-tax fetish? There's a difference between a principle and a mindless or cynical doctrinaire reflex.

  • Warren (unverified)
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    This isn't a surprise. Both violent crimes and property crimes have shown a decreasing trend since about 1996. For example, in 1995 there were about 189,000 property crimes and 16,000 violent crimes recorded in Oregon. In 1996, the property crimes fell to 177,000 and violent crimes fell to 14,000. While there have been blips now and then, the trend continued - in 2005 (in spite of a population gain of a half a million people) there were 160,000 reported property crimes and 10,000 reported violent crimes. It is notable that in 1994, Measure 11 which involved minimum sentencing guidelines was passed and put into effect in 1995. This entailed building additional prisons and handing out harsher sentences for a list of specific person crimes. The figures show that increased incarceration does work. Other things will work as well - increased funding for mental health and addiction treatment, coupled with mandatory commitment and treatment laws - many crimes are committed by mentally ill people who are under treatment, but off their meds. But on the other hand, many crimes are just committed by bad people who need to be in prison. Increased funding for incarceration and mental health/addiction treatment with strong laws to enforce this treatment (or go to jail) would likely make a huge dent in crime.

  • gerry (unverified)
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    (I replied to Rep. Shields' email with the following; may as well put it here for others to see also):

    Mannix aside, we can put another way, the low-income population in Portland, which naturally includes the property crime perps, is definitely under increasing pressure to leave.

    Mannix can say 'build more prisons;' others might trumpet this as evidence in favor of continuing to gentrify Portland, continuing to eliminate rental housing stock here, and continuing the policies that support the trend of making the city more expensive and exclusive. Or even more ludicrously, that law enforcement here is adequate to the needs of a predicted population surge. It's a red herring, in other words.

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